Excerpts from the personal journal of Pasith Belden, 2203-2227

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Researched by Alma from the journals available in the church archives.

Available to the Society

Sister Alma has made available the following entries, in the Society archives.

9-14-2203. Proposals weighed in Council of what to do with the Arch. We have monitored it for five years now, and no sign of magic or 'inhabitation', for lack of a better term, has been observed. Some would like to see it maintained as a memorial, a minority would prefer to see it destroyed. In truth, I would not be averse to its destruction, but for the nagging feeling that we would not be able to harm it, or that even if we could, its taint would never truly be gone. At least grass is growing there once more, I suppose.

3-23-2205. Dinner with the Empress and family tonight. In another month or so, I will be thoroughly occupied with the new baby, so it seemed an opportune moment to visit. Baby Celestine is sitting up now, though I only saw her for a short while before she grew bored or tired and her nurse took her away. The older children played together, which was a little unexpected. Well, not that Aethan and Trenta should play together, four-year-olds seem to find one another endlessly entertaining, at least until they start squabbling, but Butler and Theonée have never really seemed to get along well. Today, though, she took him to play hide and seek, and they were gone quite some time. On the way home, Butler was quiet, so I asked him if he had enjoyed himself. He seemed uncertain, as if he was thinking hard about something. "Mother," he said at last, "Theonée says that we knew one another before we were born. Is that true?" I told him, as calmly as I could, that it could be that they knew one another in a past life, but that the gods did not usually grant us the ability to recall such things. I don't think that answer satisfied him - as, in truth, it does not satisfy me. What could it mean? The girl is unsettling, half of her parentage unknown, and who knows what effect her mother's passage through the upper Arch had on her. The gods know I have kept a close watch on Butler all these years, but they, as well as my own senses, assure me that he is well, unaffected by any possible taint. With Theonée I am not nearly so certain. Perhaps it would be best to gently discourage him from associating with her as they grow older.

6-1-2208. I found myself wondering today what Izaguirre did with that necklace, the one that Noira Langevin seemed so eager to get to him. Kalman still believes that it was payment for Sekia Dizon's assassination, but we were never able to confirm that, and I find myself pondering other reasons she might have wanted to get the jewel into his hands. The necklace did not seem to be magical, and yet, of course, magical auras can be concealed. In retrospect, it strikes me as worrying that it is the single link I am aware of between Blackhope and Izaguirre, and yet they both, after a fashion, tried to tear the Empire apart. Was it somehow a part of Marcau Langevin's plan to bring Izaguirre onto his side, to attack the Empire from another angle? It would be so much easier to put this out of my mind if I knew that the girl had simply incurred a gambling debt or something of the sort.

5-25-2210. In a lesson this morning, Velten du Champe asked me some quite probing questions concerning the creation story given in the Almas Genara. He began by asking how old it was - did it predate the Empire, for instance? I told him the general scholarly opinion was that it was as old as the Empire. He noted, independently, what Rev. Father Bergen pointed out in his analysis of the passage five centuries ago - that the people who wrote this down probably lived near an ocean, with the talk of oysters and pearls and islands in the fog. Certainly it seems unlikely they were here, at least. Then he asked what was represented by the killing of the (grand)father-figure in the tale. Again I could only fall back on what wiser scholars than myself have said - that it represents the death of our innocence, our ignorance of what is right and wrong. He disagreed quite strongly, and said he thought it was relevant to the idea of challenging the gods - that perhaps, before we worshipped these gods, there were others... At that point I was fortunately able to end the lesson, as our time had run out. I suspect Iana, or his father, have been putting ideas in his head, but perhaps not. Perhaps he is simply too clever for his own good. Nevertheless, he displays a clear gift of priestly magic - the first, so far as I am aware, to call on the divine power of the Rat and receive an unmistakeable response. I hope he may be the first of many.

Holiday 1, 2211-12. At the palace celebrations today, Butler seemed quite down. Rab was able to get the story out of him eventually, where I had failed - I suppose a boy of that age doesn't want to talk to his mother about some matters. Apparently he asked Theonée to dance, and she refused him. When Rab told me, I could not help but feel inwardly relieved. Butler may be glum now that the girl doesn't like him, but surely it is for the best. If they were to become closer... and at this age, how awful it could be!

11-5-2213. Rab set off this morning. He said he would travel south for now, so at least the weather should be tolerable where he's going. May the gods watch over him and keep him safe, and bring him home to us again when he is able. And may the children one day understand why their father had to leave, why I had to remain, and forgive us for our failings.

4-21-2214. A terrible dream tonight, of being led bound and gagged to the Arch, while crowds cheered. I knew in my dream what waited for me there, something more horrible than my waking mind can comprehend, but I know it longed to consume me. My mind was screaming at me to fight back, to try and cast a spell or break away, even if it meant my death at the hands of my captors, because surely that would be better than the fate that awaited me within, but I couldn't do it. The women in robes drew me forward, almost gently, and I passed into the shadow. When I woke with my heart pounding, I reached blindly for Rab, forgetting that he is gone these six months and more. It took me quite some time to recover enough to realize it had only been a nightmare.

7-19-2214. Tristane has chosen Loch to be the new Chief Sorcerer. It is the obvious choice, of course - there can be few casters in the Empire who surpass him in skill - and I am glad for him, even though it will mean less time for his research, and for his family as well. Still, he says Corwen can carry on with the research, and seems to believe he will find the necessary time for his wife and children. May the gods give him the strength he needs to take on these new responsibilities.

5-30-2217. Butler was elevated to the Order of the Spoke today. I was so proud of him, looking so serious and so much like his father, as he took his oaths. I wish Rab could have been there to see him. Boden, Kalman, Loch, and Pavo had to suffice. Even the Imperial family came to the ceremony, paying their respects to all the new knights, but (if I may be forgiven this unseemly vanity) I think particularly to my son. I only wished that I felt less worried at the amount of time he spent talking with Theonée - all quite proper, of course, nothing untoward, but it still bothers me in ways I don't fully understand.

9-2-2217. Butler left the city today with his friends. It wouldn't have done to fret over him too much while he was preparing to depart, but I find I can't help worrying now. Halden and Ysana worry me by their licentiousness - and I am certain I don't know the half of it, only what Kalman has told me, but that little is enough! Velten is clever, frighteningly clever at times, and he has his father's way of keeping things - and people - at arm's length. He and his twin brother could not be more different in that respect... Still, Velten and Butler have always been good friends, as far back as I can remember, and I trust that they will look out for one another. Emoune Sathin I barely know, as she spent much of her childhood in Greywatch, but she seems a sensible young woman. And then there is Theonée, whose inclusion gives me such dread. I was surprised that Tristane and Althea agreed to let her go, to be honest - I had assumed they would not allow it, and so had spent little time worrying about it until today. I told Butler that I thought it unwise for her to travel with them, and he became quite cross with me before I could even explain my reasoning. She is his dear friend, trained at the Castalia, a brilliant scholar, and on and on - he had nothing but praise for her, and it made my blood run cold. He insists that there is nothing more than friendship between them, but still, what if they were to wed, to have children... is this some plan of the Arch-entity coming to fruition, or am I being unreasonable, overprotective? I cannot keep my son sheltered any longer. May the gods protect them all, even Theonée, as they travel, and especially keep Butler safe and under their blessings.

8-12-2219. Such wonderful news! Butler tells me he has decided to marry Cora Engelhardt! I cannot believe how much weight has lifted off my shoulders just since he started courting her, and now I can finally breathe easy. It has been a short courtship, admittedly, but I find I cannot worry about that too much, not when I am so relieved that it's not her. I will be able to tell everyone at Halden and Ysana's wedding in a few days' time. I know others have shared my concerns, and will be glad to hear this news.

6-8-2220. Butler and Cora were married this afternoon. She was quite radiant, though Butler looked as though he might faint throughout much of the day. Fortunately, he did not, and everything went off without a hitch. I finally feel, now, that things will be all right. [blah blah long description of guests, etc.] Pavo's children, having just come of age, were in high spirits as they enjoyed one of their first 'adult' festivities. Little miss Phedre cornered Butler for a dance, and I swear as I watched the two of them that she said something that made him blush, though I have no idea what. That one will be a handful, mark my words.

4-2-2225. Velten has been elevated to the rank of Reverend Father of the Order of the Rat. This was a contentious decision on the Council, not least because of his young age, but I believe my arguments were convincing. There simply are no more qualified priests of Rat than him, and it has become unacceptable to continue without a priest of Rat on the council, not when it is so obvious that the Rat is a god, that it has returned to the heavens, and that it is able to grant power to its followers. To shut them out would go against everything I have worked for. The only issue that remains unresolved is the matter of where they will fit in the cycle of Patriarchs. In order to gain this much, we had to cede our wish that they be placed immediately next, following the death of Matriarch Briaga, may it be many years hence. I suppose this means that there is a chance, gods willing, that I will be the next Matriarch. A difficult idea to grapple with, but not entirely unexpected.

5-27-2227. [at the end of an otherwise uninteresting entry.] Trimmon tells me that this new guard captain, Nash, has something odd about her, but he can't put his finger on it. I had a look at her myself, and noticed her eyes have a peculiar glow about them. It is most likely just a spell she's had permanently cast upon herself, but not one I am familiar with.

Additional entries

The following entries were left out of Alma's public notes.

7-12-2218. The children - though they are no longer children, of course - have returned safely once more, thank the gods. Trenta has spent this past month pining for Velten to return, in a way that is at once adorable and insufferable. She begged to be able to go with them, but I told her she was too young, and so she's been snubbing me these past few weeks. I suppose at least she didn't run away to follow them, as I would have been inclined to do at her age. I don't think anything unseemly has passed between them since he returned, I haven't given them the opportunity, but nevertheless Trenta is obviously in love. I hope for her sake that Velten feels the same. I would certainly give them my blessing in another year or so if they wished to marry. Butler and Theonée is another matter entirely. He comes home each evening, he wouldn't dare spend the night with her, but it's not as if such things can only be done after dark! He knows my feelings on the matter, and I don't believe he would lie to me directly if I asked him whether they were involved, but... I don't want to put my son in a position where he would be tempted to lie, and I admit that part of me is weak and frightened and would rather remain ignorant. Let the gods guide us on this path, then.

12-30-2219. My eldest daughter was married today. Trenta du Champe still has a strange ring about it, but I suppose I shall get used to it in time. She looked beautiful, but so young. I hope and trust that she will be happy in her choice of partner, and that they will always be good to one another. I was a little surprised that Emoune and Theonée did not attend their friend's wedding, and asked after them, only to learn, to my surprise, that they had left for Greywatch more than two months ago. It puzzles me...